International space station
The UK Space Agency has signed an agreement with American space company Axiom Space for a UK astronauts' flight mission which let them carry out scientific research, demonstrate new technologies, and participate in education and outreach activities at the International Space Station for two weeks.

The UK space sector got a major boost this week as the UK government announced plans to send British astronauts to space through a new deal.

On Wednesday, October 25, the UK Space Agency signed an agreement with the Houston-based space company Axiom Space for a UK astronauts' flight mission. As part of the plan, British astronauts will fly to space on future Axiom Space missions.

UK astronauts going on this future flight to space will carry out scientific research, demonstrate new technologies, and participate in education and outreach activities for up to two weeks in space, said the UK Space Agency.

The UK Space Agency has asked all UK universities and research institutes to share experiments and technology demonstration ideas that could be done in the two weeks when the UK astronauts will be orbiting the Earth.

Speaking about the new agreement, Axiom Space CEP, Michael Suffredini said that they are looking forward to working with the UK Space Agency on a future human spaceflight mission.

"With this agreement as the initial foundation, we will build a comprehensive mission plan in support of the UK's national and agency objectives to advance its capabilities in space exploration and discovery. Together, we will look to harness the benefits of microgravity and help push the boundaries of innovation to advance our civilisation," said Suffredini.

The Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency, Dr Paul Bate said that "the agreement paves the way for UK astronauts to conduct scientific research in orbit, and to inspire millions of us here on Earth".

"This agreement is the springboard for the UK Space Agency, Axiom Space and the mission sponsors to assess how we best push forward the frontiers of knowledge and innovation and showcase the power of space to improve lives on Earth," said Dr. Bate

The UK Space Agency will work with the European Space Agency (ESA) for the Axiom Space mission, taking UK astronauts to space.

The Director of Human and Robotic Exploration at ESA, Daniel Neuenschwander, said: "ESA is working on Europe's preparation of the post-ISS era and the development of a sustainable commercial space economy in Low Earth Orbit."

"This unique flight will allow ESA to enhance its actions with new partnership schemes and implement together with the United Kingdom a series of research experiments, which will further deepen the knowledge on exploration in and for Europe," Neuenschwander added.

UK astronauts' flight mission to showcase Britain's role in commercial space investment

The UK government made this announcement ahead of the UK Science Minister George Freeman's plan to open the London Stock Exchange on the same day on October 25. Freeman spoke about the UK space sector's ability to bring investments at the LSE event.

UK Science Minister George Freeman termed the UK astronauts' flight mission a "historic UK mission" which has the potential to inspire a "whole new generation to reach for the stars".

Freeman added: "We want to put the UK at the forefront of the global race for commercial space investment, continue to support UK scientists and engineers to test new technologies and carry out important research and, ultimately, bring the benefits back to people and businesses across the country."

This comes at a time when the space agency recently opened up satellite data and services for business use to make Britain a space economy.

The UK astronauts' flight mission builds on the National Space Strategy and the UK Science and Technology Framework which stresses international collaborations to enhance the capabilities of the UK space sector.

For this, the UK government had demarcated five critical technologies – engineering biology, semiconductors, quantum technologies, future telecommunications and artificial intelligence (AI).

The space agency has also called on organisations across the country to come forward to build a national space education and public engagement programme that will highlight career options in the UK space sector and promote STEM uptake.

The programme should showcase the role of the space sector in bettering the lives of UK citizens. This comes at a time when the UK Space Agency allocated £65 million in funding to harness the power of space to improve lives.

UKspace President, Dr Alice Bunn, termed the agreement between the UK Space Agency and Axiom Space "exciting" as it can extend space innovation spearheaded by the UK space sector.

Dr Bunn further elaborated how Axiom Space, the "only full-service orbital mission provider" in the space industry can help Britain prepare its first spaceflight programme by developing astronaut selection programmes. The organisation is known for conducting end-to-end crewed missions to the International Space Station.